The second story arc of Order Of The Stick is where everything really begins. It is here that Burlew formally introduces the overarching plotlines that drive the rest of the strip, including the political intrigue of Azure City and the significance of the Gates all over the land. Even with the expanded storyline, though, Order of the Stick retains the characteristic humor that made it so enjoyable in the first place. The comic begins similarly to the first arc in the beginning, with the story acting more as a frame for the various gag-a-day strips seen so far. However, once Miko Miyazaki shows up, the underlying story begins to take front and center. The transition is fairly gentle, though - even if one can tell that a more involved plot is coming, the story meanders around a while before finally reaching full speed towards the end. This works well for the style of the comic - Burlew understands that while a story may be needed to generate long-term interest, it was and still is the humor of the irreverent and self-referential OotS world that brought readers there to begin with. "No Cure for the Paladin Blues" also establishes that the members of the Order aren't entirely flat characters. Multiple cast members end up interacting with each other and enduring trials that leave them with a new outlook - sometimes for better, some times for worse. The cumulative changes are mostly subtle, and the casual reader may not notice it, but a long time fan might return to this arc and see it as the point where Roy or even Vaarsuvius begin to shift into the characters they are now. Burlew had the idea of Order Of The Stick's storyline for a long time running now, and it shows. Fans of Chekhov's Gun might find this arc to be a veritable armory. Foreshadowing spotters, take note. In summary: many readers will come for the no-holds-barred jab at fantasy conventions, and stay for the epic story worthy of its own fantasy novel. Whichever you're looking for, Order Of The Stick will not disappoint.
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